London – United Kingdom A long-delayed and controversial plan to deport asylum seekers to the central African state of Rwanda was rejected by the British Supreme Court on Wednesday.
The Rule A major blow at the hands of the country’s Supreme Court for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who made “Stop the Boats” – a populist voice to end unauthorized immigration across the English Channel from France – a key promise ahead of next year’s general election.
The Rwanda program is designed to stop thousands of migrants, mainly from South Asia, the Middle East and Africa, who make the dangerous crossing in small dinghies and pleasure boats. It has been heavily criticized by international human rights organizations and domestic opponents.
Rwanda received an initial £140 million ($174 million) last year to receive migrants who have made the 4,000-mile journey – although none have yet been sent. Wednesday’s ruling casts doubt on whether that will happen.
“This is not the outcome we wanted, but we have been planning for all events over the last few months and we are committed to stopping the boats,” Sunak said in a statement.
A group of five unnamed migrants – three from Syria, one from Iran and one from Iraq – challenged the legality of the program in an appeal, arguing that Rwanda was not considered a “safe country”.
The five Supreme Court judges said, “Individuals sent to Rwanda are at real risk of being returned to their home countries, where they will face persecution or other inhumane treatment, when in fact they have a right to seek asylum.”
A lower court previously ruled that the policy was legal, Wednesday’s ruling noted. “However, the manner in which the Home Secretary applied the policy to claimants’ individual cases was procedurally flawed,” it said.
In particular, the policy was ruled illegal because the UK adheres to the European Convention on Human Rights, a charter that obliges states to ensure that people are not subjected to torture and other ill-treatment.
A statement issued by Sunak on Wednesday said the government was working on a legally binding agreement with Rwanda to address the court’s concerns. If that fails, Sunak said he would consider changing the UK’s law and moving forward with the plan, abandoning international human rights treaties.
According to official figures, more than 20,000 people have crossed this year, including 800 in a single day. This is still less than the more than 45,000 that traveled in 2022. But the influx is causing even more trouble for some local authorities in the UK, which is putting some migrants in hotels and student accommodation amid a national housing crisis.
The Rwanda project was the brainchild of former interior minister Suella Braverman, who was sacked on Monday after accusing police of discriminating against pro-Palestinian demonstrators, whom she described as “hate marchers”.
Braverman issued a scathing resignation letter Tuesday, attacking Sunak for abandoning or ignoring right-wing plans and for not having a “plan B” in case the Supreme Court rejects the Rwanda plan.
The plan has been heavily criticized by opposition lawmakers, human rights groups, migrant welfare charities and lawyers, but right-wing lawmakers and supportive newspapers continue to argue that it is the key to stopping the boats, which are linked to extensive organized crime groups.
Braverman and his allies continue to argue that Britain should withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights, created by Winston Churchill and after the Second World War. Drafted by a British Conservative barrister.